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Chief Technology Mommy: Working relentlessly to keep children & teens safe on the Internet. No high-level technical jargon and No Excuses!

Archive for the category “Bits and Bytes – Keeping Children and Teens Safe on the Internet”

Attention Teens: “Think before Tweeting” – Social Media Responsibility and Keeping Teens Safe on the Internet.

Attention all parents, coaches, teachers, and all other adults involved with educating teenagers– I’m calling a Twitter Life Meeting for our children!

I heard a disturbing story today about a very talented high school athlete who is being courted by some of the most popular coaches in college football.  The young man allegedly sent out a tweet on Twitter with his demands for the coaches, which in my opinion was very inappropriate and could cost him his scholarship.  Whatever happened to good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation?

Honestly, I love technology and the endless possibilities it offers us, and while I encourage young people to become engaged in the field of technology there are certainly some boundaries that need to be set when communicating online.

Educating our teens on social media protocol must span far beyond Facebook and posting inappropriate photos.  Words are just as powerful, and once they are loosed into cyberspace they cannot be taken back. Tweeting inappropriate messages on Twitter can also cause harm to our children. The words they share with the world will follow them and sometimes come back to haunt them.

Trust me, as a mom I understand we have so much to teach our children, but let’s go ahead and add this to our list.  I believe that my child is going to be a very successful musician, performer, baker (she changes her mind often), and I want her to know that the decisions she makes today will have an impact on her future.

As a speaker I often tell my audiences that I don’t have to walk around telling people that I am African-American, as you can look at me and tell.  The same is true for our teens that are out there making their mark, if they have talent and skills the world will see that.  There’s a difference between tweeting an accomplishment and making demands on a school that would like for you to play football at their institution.

There is a fine line between being self-confident and obnoxious.  Let’s educate our children on the differences and how they want to be perceived by the world.  Before their next Twittering session, remind them to think about it before they ‘tweet’ about it!


Online Video Games: Toys or Trouble? 7 Practical Tips to Keep your child safe on the Internet.

A 22-year old man allegedly met a 10-year old boy online while they were both playing the video game “Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2.” The man invited the boy into a private chat room where they exchanged cell phone numbers. The man proceeded to call and send texts to the boy requesting pictures of his genitals. Unfortunately the boy sent the pictures in hopes of receiving cheat codes for the video game which would allow the child various advantages in the game. Luckily the child’s mom checked his phone and text records and alerted authorities. Just because your child is not involved in social networking, does not mean they are safe from online predators.

Seven practical tips to keep your child safe while playing online video games:
1. Before allowing your child to engage in any online activity discuss the basic rules of engagement. They are to never disclose their full name, address, phone number, school name or any other identifier.
2. Make sure your child knows to only chat with friends or relatives during the online gaming session. There have been instances where people have their online gaming identification stolen, so make sure your child knows to look out for any peculiar behavior or verify that they are chatting with a friend. I would advise my child to avoid private chat rooms even if asked to join by a friend or family member as they can just as easily speak on the phone.
3. If your child is being harassed, let them know they can come to you for help. Yes, you will probably be upset, but your child must feel safe enough to share this information.
4. Make sure your child knows to never send out any pictures or any other confidential information to anyone, not even family members, without your permission.
5. Often times your children play online video games while visiting friends. Find out what games they play and the family policies to make sure you and the other parents are on the same page.
6. Invade their privacy. In this instance mentioned above, the mom checking her son’s cell phone records probably saved his life. You probably know all of your child’s real life friends, and it should be no different with online friends.
7. No matter how much your child begs you for a certain game, check out the video game rating. In this instance the game was rated mature and was not suitable for the child.

ESRB Game Rating System:
EC – Early Childhood. The game is appropriate for anyone between the ages of three to six. It may include components that require reading or math skills.
E – Everyone. This is for everyone over at least seven years old. It may contain little or no violence or strong language, and resembles the MPAA’s G Rating.
E10+ – The game is suitable for people age ten and older. It may include some mild violence and some strong language. The Sims 2 for Playstation has this rating and it resembles the MPAA’s PG rating.
T – Teen. Anyone thirteen and older could play this game. Most of the western civilization games fall under this level. This resembles the PG-13 rating as there may be some nudity, violence or strong language.
M – Mature. This is the most common game rating because most gamers are over seventeen years old. Many of the war games and some sports games such as NASCAR fall under this category. These resemble the MPAA R rating and usually contain violence, some nudity, language, and possibly sex.
AO – This is the hardcore stuff with intense violence, nudity, sex, and strong language. You must be eighteen or older to buy this game and most people are done with gaming after they get at this level. This resembles the MPAA’s X or NC-17 Rating.
RP – Rating Pending. This rating is usually used for advertisements, but when the game hits the stores its rating has been determined. Some games, however, do have this kind of rating, just to do a similar kind of thing as calling a movie that should be R or higher unrated, such as “American Pie 2″.

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Video: Quick tips on keeping children and teens safe on the Internet – Do you know who your child is “friending?”

Quick and “to the point” True Stories, Real Life Strategies and Tips to Keep children and Teens Safe on the Internet.”

Topic: Teens being lured to “friend” people with fake profiles. In this video I recap the story and provide “real life” strategies on keeping your children safe on the Internet.

To spy or not to spy…that is the question. Keeping children and teens safe on the Internet – Chief Technology Mommy

Over the years, I have had many debates with parents and experts about “spying” on a child’s internet usage and social media activities.  Some people feel that spying will break the trust in the relationship and cause the child to be resentful.  Let me very clear about my stance:  I do not spy; I am very upfront with my daughter about my monitoring of her technology habits.  When I was younger my parent’s policy was “my house, my business,” and I now appreciate that rule.  Please understand, I am not judging anyone’s parenting style or house rules– I am speaking only from my experience.  Knowing that my parents were openly watching made me think twice about my decisions, made me feel as if they cared, and ultimately saved me from many unnecessary heartaches.

Periodically I review the cell phone bill to monitor texting and phone usage, as well as review the browser history on her computer.  Last year, I typed my daughter’s name in a search engine only to find her on YouTube singing as if she was auditioning for American Idol.  Although we had previous discussions about internet usage, she felt that it did not apply if she were going to be a superstar.  Needless to say we revisited the social media conversation and the expectations.  I compare the monitoring to being a supervisor; you expect your employees to do the right thing, however from time to time you still inspect their work.  With our children we must “inspect what we expect.”

As the parent you have every right to be very open and upfront about your expectations and actions as it relates to your child’s internet and social media interactions. While some experts are still debating over “spying” and a child’s right to privacy, they forget that some of the information the child discloses is public, which means the only person in the dark is the parent! Maybe I’m crazy, but I would rather have my child temporarily upset with me for monitoring her activity than reacting to a situation that could have been avoided.

I am not a huge fan of monitoring software, however it depends on your individual situation and experiences.  Instead of spending money on software, here are a few easy things you can do today for free to monitor your child’s internet usage:

1.  Place your home computer in a common area.   Often times when your child has less privacy they are less likely to do something they don’t want you to see.  I have found having the computer in the living room or kitchen, opens up communication and sharing.

2.  Review your browser history.  Periodically perform a check on your browser history to find out where your child is spending time on the web.  Many children are aware of this tactic and will erase the history.  If you check the browser history and it’s clear, you may want to explore further.

3.   Set-up Google alerts for your child’s name or alias.  Set up the alerts to come to your email and if things are posted on the Internet, you will be the first to know.

4.   Implement technology time-outs.  When my daughter walks in the house from school, she understands that her cell phone should be turned off.  I don’t take the phone from her, but the expectation has been discussed and set.  If her friends want to speak with her they know to call the home phone, if she wants to use the internet she can access our home computer in the common area, and I can’t imagine her sitting in the house texting all day.  The cell phone rule is a little more relaxed on the weekend and still gives her the freedom she needs.

5.  Talk to your children.  Never underestimate the power of communication.  I ask my daughter about her day, what’s going on in her world, and usually will slip in a conversation about social media or Internet usage.  It’s amazing how my daughter opens up when I am interested in what’s important to her, listen without interruption, and encourage open conversation.  Lastly, it’s important that these conversations become a normal way of life as this will make the way easier when and if an issue arises.

I do believe that children have a right to some privacy, however if someone is bullying my child or a predator is reaching out to her on her social media pages – it is my business!  Back in the day, my mom was my mom…not my “girl” or my friend and I appreciate that.  If my daughter grows up and says the same, I will count that as a success!

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